Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Coming back to the Q&A on Conflict, having covered the basics of External and Internal conflict, it's time to look at one of the questions I've been asked about it -

Lacey said:

I really struggle with balancing internal and external conflicts and I tend to lean toward external. While I understand the principles of letting the internal drive the external I'm still not getting it right. I'm sure I'm missing something... Where's the magic formula ;)

My simple answer is - Don’t balance them!

The 'magic formula' is this -Internal conflict must always be the most important.


In other words, the external conflict must create the internal conflict and combine with it – and then the internal conflict (the feelings) must drive everything.

People act on emotions. On what they feel inside.There may be external conflict but it’s what they FEEL about it that motivates them and drives them into conflict.

EXTERNAL can add to/ make an internal conflict worse but the INTERNAL must be there and must be the dominant driving force.

And EXTERNAL can only make it worse if they let it (ie if the INTERNAL) lets it.

Let's recap on Romeo and Juliet
There is a feud between the families - which is EXTERNAL

Romeo and Juliet are from those different families which is EXTERNAL

But when they meet what they feel (which is INTERNAL) makes them want each other more than this feud.

But they believe their families will hold them back/punish them/ opposite family might even kill them(INTERNAL) They fear they can never be together.

If they didn’t give a damn about their families/feelings/thought they could persuade them – the EXTERNAL conflict wouldn’t push them into doing what they do. It's those INTERNAL feelings and conflicts that do that.

How does it worsen ?

When Romeo sees Tybalt fight Mercutio – his INTERNAL conflict makes this EXTERNAL one worse – and the INTERNAL conflict makes his feeling at having fought the enemy - and killed Tybalt - worse

Juliet’s INTERNAL conflict is made worse because Romeo – who she loves - has killed her cousin – so she should hate him. But her feelings for him (INTERNAL) make her INTERNAL conflict worse.

Then her father insists she marries Paris. EXTERNAL. Her feelings for Romeo (INTERNAL) and the fact she is already married (EXTERNAL) are affected/made worse by her INTERNAL conflict which drives her to the fake death plot.
EMOTIONAL/INTERNAL conflict should underlie everything that’s happening. It should always be in the characters’ and in the readers’ minds. It is the INTERNAL conflct that makes your hero and heroine react, that motivates them, that drives everything they do.

So Lacey, if you tend to lean towards the external, you are getting the balance all wrong. You need to focus on the internal conflict and let that dominate.

We'll look at ways of getting this balance right later.
(c) Kate Walker 2010

1 comment:

Kerrin said...

this should look complicated, but actually it makes so much sense! thanks Kate :)


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